After all, if we are “justified by faith” as St. Paul says, what happens if we have doubts?
How can we measure up to the standard set forth in today’s first reading (Romans 4:20-25)?
Abraham did not doubt God’s promise in unbelief;
rather, he was empowered by faith
and gave glory to God
and was fully convinced
that what God had promised
he was also able to do.
That is why it was credited to him
But what about those of us who are not free of doubts?
To begin with, we mean different things when we use the word “doubt.”
First, there is the “doubt” that is practically the same as denial - “I doubt this” and “I doubt that” – a doubt that (at best) leans against giving assent. This kind of doubt is incompatible with faith, which necessarily involves the giving of assent.
Then, there is the “doubt” of an intellectual no-man’s land – “I’m struggling with doubts” -- in which a person is unable to give the assent of faith. Sometimes it is because the person lacks information, sometimes it is because they are being confused by contrary ideas, sometimes it is simply because God’s gift of faith has not yet come to fruition within them, and sometimes (most dangerously) the person actually chooses not to move forward.
For many, this time of “doubts” is but a transition to faith, but if it does not lead to faith, the person stays in darkness.
Finally, there are the “doubts” of passing, contrary thoughts – “but what if...?” – temptations to unbelief that just pop into our minds. Perhaps it is the work of the Tempter; perhaps it is just concupiscence. In such cases, the greatest danger can be to panic, or otherwise to dwell too long on such thoughts.
Even Abraham would not have been exempt from these thoughts, but Abraham was absolutely firm in his assent to the truths that God revealed to him.
This itself was the work of God’s grace – a grace extended to us even more wonderfully in and through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We deal with doubts best in the same way we are to live our Christian life: to immerse ourselves in the teaching of Christ that we have received, to open ourselves to God’s grace (especially in the Sacraments), and to pray always for an ever-deeper faith.